The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is expected to deliver is report on renewable energy.
Report key to future of green energy unveiled today
ABU DHABI // Renewable energy could play a significant role in meeting global power demand in 2050, an influential report is expected to say when it is unveiled today.
Compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN scientific body, the report compares more than 160 scenarios on renewable energy including making use of the Sun, wind and ocean waves. Each scenario looks at how the policies of different governments could interact to encourage or discourage more renewable energy.
Since Saturday, delegations from 100 governments have been deliberating how to edit the technical document, which was prepared by scientists and is more than 1,000 pages long, to a shorter and simpler summary that politicians and the general public would be able to use. A source close to the negotiations, which are being held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, said talks had routinely continued into the early morning hours, as governments wrangled over the report's precise wording in an effort to defend their own interests.
"This process is trying to take national interests out of the picture and bring impartiality and rigour that is ascribed to by all governments," said Nick Nuttall, a UN Environment Programme spokesperson on temporary secondment to the IPCC.
Releasing the report is significant, because it means governments have "all agreed voluntarily that this is the likely future potential of these technologies", he said.
The report is expected to boost support for renewable energy. Environmentalists say a shift to renewables is essential if the world is to avert catastrophic climate change caused by the burning of large amounts of fossil fuels.
More than 80 per cent of global energy is obtained from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. The remainder is provided by nuclear power and a small amount by renewable technologies. Environmentalists argue that with the right kind of support from governments, the situation can be reversed over the coming years.
In a report published earlier this year, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) argued that with the right kind of support renewable sources could supply 95 per cent of global energy needs by 2050. The Energy Report includes a 2050 scenario prepared by Ecofys, a Dutch energy efficiency and climate change consultancy.
Dr Stephan Singer, the director of Global Energy Policy at WWF in Abu Dhabi who is observing the negotiations, said that the IPCC document was likely to be less optimistic than its WWF counterpart.
Achieving almost a full reliance on renewable energy by 2050 "is definitely not easy from a political perspective", said Dr Singer. "But from a technology perspective it is easy."
The WWF document, which places a big focus on energy efficiency, also projects that solar technologies could generate half of the world's electricity requirements. In addition, solar power could provide the heating for half of all buildings and 15 per cent of industrial heat and fuel demand.
The WWF believes wind can also play a significant role in a cleaner energy world. Building an additional one million onshore turbines and 100,000 offshore turbines, which capture wind energy in the high seas, would help meet a quarter of the world's electricity needs, its report said. About four per cent of the total electricity generated would be geothermal, which is essentially heat stored underground. Also in the mix are the possibility of generating power and heating from agriculture and food processing waste, sawdust and municipal waste.
The report also mentions the use of crops, such as rapeseed or cane, to produce fuels, but cautions that approach would require a significant land commitment of 250 million hectares - about one sixth of all cropland. Instead the WWF recommends that algae be used to produce fuel instead.
Dr Singer said for the document's goals to be realised governments needed to act now so they could set targets for 2030.
"We strongly recommend that countries take up 2030 targets for renewable energy, energy efficiency and the industrial design of their economies in terms of energy," he said.
Making a commitment soon was essential, he said, considering the time and resources involved in planning and building new energy projects.
"You need to give the investment community the clarity and framework that the money they are investing will yield good returns," said Dr Singer.